Seems like some days, or weeks or even months are made up of waves upon waves of challenges, trials, and painful situations... Or maybe it's just me? At times I find myself in a tangle of complications and confusion. I admit, things get a little dramatic in my head when I can't seem to take control of what I might face in the moment, but honestly (and thankfully) nothing truly life-threatening or too extreme has happened to me.

As we talk about beauty under pressure, it seems to me that pressure in my life has been a lot of times a steady push and pull of long lists of relentless responsibilities, commitments, expectations, stresses, uncertainties, and burdens that just won’t seem to give me the chance to let go and not worry... Not so much like a button with a very specific pressure point, but more like a pressure cooker kind of environment. At least that’s how it has felt lately. But in sitting down to write about it, God reminds me to "be anxious about nothing... "
Sand is intriguing. It can be calming, therapeutic, amusing, and even entertaining. Think about walks on the beach, drawing in the sand, building sandcastles, zen gardens... However, it can also be abrasive, cleansing, and uncomfortable: like having sand in your bathing suit, exfoliation, or sandblasting. But as for a single grain of sand, it is of no great importance. It could go unnoticed in our daily life, or brushed off without any regrets or thoughts. UNLESS that tiny grain lands in one of our eyes- we definitely feel it and respond to it with discomfort, tears, desperation, and even rage.  What a difference a grain of sand can make in differing contexts!

This is the lesson that has been circling in my mind for weeks. You see, pearls are the result of uncomfortable bits of sand that lodge into the oyster's tender interior. The tiniest bit invades the protected privacy of an oyster; if it is lodged properly and accepted, the oyster will surround this hurtful, foreign piece with layer after layer of nacre, the oily component that eventually turns into the pearl's mass and luster. The process is not easy for the living oyster, and neither is the production of valuable pearls. In fact, not all grains of sand that enter the oyster become pearls, and even if they do, not all pearls have the quality to be a valuable jewel. The time spent wrapping that grain and the response of the oyster are crucial to the process that can potentially produce the largest, rarest, and most beautiful pearls.

Grains of sand stuck in the inner, sensible, tender, and private parts of our hearts might be difficult
trials that don’t seem to have logical answers, wounds from the past, uncomfortable revelations about our character, or even "unanswered prayers"... At least that is a short list of the grains I feel often lodged in my heart… Yours might be similar.

One of the lessons in cultivating valuable pearls is that the pain and discomfort find a purpose as the cause for them is embraced and covered in the right substances and as it undergoes the slow and steady process of becoming a pearl.

Picture God as the cultivator, and His Word and Spirit being the substance that hour after hour and day by day surround that pain in a healing, protective, shiny and lasting coverage that can transform the very thing that harmed us into a valuable piece that grows in beauty as the sunlight hits those new layers. God's hand does not leave us; the Holy Spirit is right there in our pain and discomfort showering our wounds with balms of promises, truths, and lessons... In the pressure, listen to the whisper of His Spirit and decide that a pearl is in the making.

King David writes a sincere prayer in Psalm 51. Here he had been shown uncomfortable truths about himself. He walked through a painful situation and turned to God, as awkward and shameful as it probably was. This part of the Palm is what God often brings to my mind and encourages me to adopt as my own prayer when I am beneath great and many pressures:
"Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me." Psalm 51:10 NLT

Let us turn to God in these uncomfortable times and situations. Let us embrace the process of His Spirit creating in us clean hearts and loyal spirits, adorning our lives with pearls that are stories of His faithfulness, shining with colorful luster as they reflect His presence.

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